Calls for exclusion of Sinn Féin
Calls for exclusion of Sinn Féin

The failure to bring charges of IRA membership or arms possession against the four men involved in the incident on Friday night could ease the pressure on Sinn Féin in the current talks process.

However, unionists have predictably called for Sinn Féin to be excluded from the current review of the 198 Good Friday Agreement.

Ahead of a meeting with British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy in Belfast, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble demanded the British government take action against republicans.

Mr Trimble recalled that Sinn Féin had been previously excluded from negotiations because of continuing paramilitary activity by the IRA.

"What we are going to impress today on the Secretary of State is that he does that, that he excludes Sinn Féin from these discussions until there is an end to paramilitary activity.

"It is pertinent when we look at what happened over the weekend that we say where is the referee? And isn't it time that people were shown more than just a yellow card?"

Mr Trimble challenged the DUP on whether they were prepared to continue the review without Sinn Féin.

DUP leader Ian Paisley earlier said he would be demanding a British government ruling on the IRA ceasefire.

"It is clear the IRA remains a fully armed and active terror machine that has no intention of leaving its violent, murderous and criminal activities behind," Mr Paisley said.

"The chief constable's admission that punishment beatings that go on in republican communities are carried out by the IRA vindicates our view that Sinn Féin/IRA will have to meet all elements of the criteria laid out by the prime minister before they could be considered to be a democratic party sitting at the table on an equal basis."

Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin responded by saying that Dr Paisley has built his political career on rejecting accommodation such as the Good Friday Agreement.

"We should understand this in its proper context," he said. "My view is it doesn`t threaten the Good Friday Agreement. My view is that there is no evidence whatsoever that the Agreement or the peace process is under threat from republicans.

"Rather the threat comes from those who failed to make politics work."

Mr McLaughlin also dismissed criticism from the Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell, claiming his comments were motivated by concerns about Sinn Féin's electoral rise in the 26 Counties in the run-up to this June's local government and European Parliament elections.

Mr McDowell accused Sinn Féin of "vomit-making hypocrisy" by pushing for political concessions while the IRA "pretends" to be on ceasefire.

"They are trying to have it both ways; having a private army, having a private police force. The IRA is trying to pretend it is on military ceasefire. It is a police state within a police state."

Stressing the attack on Mr Tohill was designed to kill, Mr McDowell said: "The perpetrators wore boiler suits. You don't have to be an Einstein to know that a very serious crime was in contemplation."

The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described the kidnap bid as "a very serious matter".

"I am naturally disappointed that events like this are still happening," Mr Ahern said.

"But I am a realist. What I have been pointing out for months on end now is that we have brought the peace process to a stage where the way forward is fairly clear and that we have an end to paramilitarism by everybody."

The SDLP's Alex Attwood said it was now essential that the leadership of republicanism "faced down" members of the IRA who he said were engaged in illegal paramilitary and criminal activity.

"Whether it is exiling, punishment attacks, recruitment, organised criminal activity and all the rest, the republican movement must now travel all the way without delay.

"All their criminal activity must end. All violence must stop. There is no basis for a private army and we all need to see this."

Mr Adams said there was a choice for people who were quick to pass judgment on the incident.

"Do they value the Sinn Féin peace strategy and our contribution to the peace process, including our ongoing efforts to bring an end to physical force republicanism, or do they not?" the Sinn Féin President asked.

"If they do not and prefer instead to stick with the old agenda then it is they who undermine the peace process not Sinn Féin."

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